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IT shops push ahead with virtual desktops

Among the Citrix faithful, virtual desktops are finally moving from the pilot stage into production.

SAN FRANCISCO -- Desktop virtualization isn't for everyone, but plenty of enterprises running Citrix software are putting their pilots into production and in some cases, rolling out to more of their workforce by year end.

The driving forces behind this adoption are giving end users on thin clients a more personal experience, increasing desktop security and standardization, according to attendees at Citrix Synergy 2010.

"It'll make my life a lot easier if I can get my end user experience to be better," said Doug Debrecht, vice president and CIO at global chemical manufacturer, Chemtura Corporation.

My users have been complaining about their Citrix environment for a while ... If we can give them some control back and a PC-like experience, they will feel better
Doug Debrecht
Vice president and CIOChemtura Corporation

"My users have been complaining about their Citrix environment for a while," he added. Chemtura has used terminal services for years. "If we can give them some control back and a PC-like experience, they will feel better."

Chemtura plans to roll out Citrix virtual desktops to 2,500 users, or about half the company, starting in September. Typically, these are workers in the company's chemical plants, or sales people out on the road and mostly based in Europe.

Debrecht's IT team looked at VMware View as an alternative but said his company is "pregnant with Citrix … We can't kick 'em out, it's more than a ten minute job to do that." Plus, he said he's more comfortable going with a market leader.

Citrix executives here this week claimed about 1.5 million virtual desktop seats in production. They say the technology has moved from task workers to office workers and now the mobile workforce.

For example, the Pan American Health Organization has 2,000 users scattered in branch offices throughout Latin America. These end users will start receiving Citrix virtual desktops later this year.

"Standardization is our biggest need," said Fernando Morales, chief system engineer at Pan American Health Organization. "We have sys admins in each country and they do different things and this is very hard to maintain."

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His biggest challenge is getting his users comfortable with the new environment. "We want them to have one image, the same experience in the home and in the office," he said.

Citrix adds more security
Citrix piqued the interest of its customer base at the conference by adding some needed security improvement to its virtual desktop technology. Its new encrypted data plug-in works with Citrix Receiver to extend document security to mobile devices, extending encryption to laptops. In addition the company tightened its partnership with McAfee to scale anti-virus security to thousands of users.

"We will not touch VDI until that encryption is there," said Ricado Bruxxi, engineer with the national government of Argentina. Bruxxi manages the budget application for financial transactions between different government agencies and external foreign providers. "More money flows through out government than all the banks in Argentina," he said.

Jim Simpson, vice president of IT at City Bank Texas was also encouraged by the security improvements. "This [security] shifts it to a high priority for us in 2010," said Simpson, whose bank plans to roll out virtual desktops to tellers, loan officers and remote branches.

Simpson said the bank must also check to be sure Citrix VDI technology is compatible with VMware's server virtualization software, which the bank also uses.

Technology is often not the only barrier to installing virtual desktops. Office politics can also be a factor since IT shops often have separated desktop and server teams. "Our desktop team doesn't understand it yet, said Wesley Doyle, a senior engineer in server operations at CareFirst, a healthcare provider. "We built a virtual desktop environment for them to show them how great it is, but they don't want it. We need a business unit to sponsor it,"

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